Unemployment in Ireland Rises Slightly to 4.3%

Unemployment in Ireland rose slightly last month to 4.3%, according to government statistics released Friday.

Unemployment in Ireland, an economically thriving country of 4.2 million, has remained within a range of 4.2% to 4.5% since 2003 -- even though the country has absorbed more than 300,000 immigrants, chiefly from Eastern Europe, during the period.

No reason was given for the rise in unemployment from January's rate of 4.2%.

A more detailed Feb. 22 report on Ireland's employment market found that the number of jobs rose by 4.3% over the past year to more than 2.06 million. Jobs in construction and health services recorded the strongest gains.

About 52% of the extra 85,500 jobs were taken by immigrants. However, the Feb. 22 report found that immigrants also were accounting for an increasing share of those claiming state welfare, with an extra 2,500 signing up for unemployment support.

Ireland, Britain and Sweden were the only three European Union members to keep their employment markets fully open to EU members when the bloc expanded in 2004 and admitted Eastern European members. However Ireland, like Britain, has restricted jobseekers from the newest EU states, Bulgaria and Romania.